The Handmaiden (2016)

Impression: This movie ticks so many boxes for the elements I like in movies: beautiful people in beautiful places, unexpected twists and turns, funny and weird. During the first hour you think you know where it’s going: it seems like a very beautiful, but straight forward, and slightly cheesy period piece. Once part 2 starts, you realize that everything that just happened can be completely reinterpreted with a help of a few pieces of background information you’ve just been given and nothing is as it seems.  A sign of a great movie is when a run time of almost 3 hours feels like no time at all has passed. This is one of those movies.
Facts:  A Korean/Japanese period piece/comedy with unexpected twists and turns reminiscent of The Sting, but with a lot more explicit sex scenes and general weirdness.
Extra: I saw this one as well at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. I  was sitting next to this Haitian couple and during the sex scenes only, the woman felt compelled to narrate and comment on what was going on in great detail, which made it a little awkward.
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Moonlight (2016)

Impression: It’s not just the story which is heartbreaking and poignant and timely.  The director is a true cinema geek, every little detail from the music to the amount of sweat on actors’ faces has been carefully thought out.  He said his favorite director is Claire Denis, and it shows. This film is a film buff’s dream come true (the cinematography, the music, the acting, the casting, everything). It’s as close to a perfect film as I’ve seen, and as close to a European film I’ve seen from an American filmmaker.
Facts: A coming of age story centers on Chrion, a quiet, poor, black kid growing up in a tough neighborhood in Miami, and follows him through to adulthood in a sequence of heartbreaking vignettes.
Extra: I saw this film at the Toronto International Film Festival. I started crying about 1/2 way into the movie and kept at it until after the Q&A ended. The audience stood up and clapped and kept clapping until Barry Jenkins asked them to stop. He took a bunch of questions, all of which he answered with a lot of depth and thought. Finally, a man raised his hand for the last question. Before he answered, Barry Jenkins said “Is that Jonathan Demme?” It was! He said “You, know if you didn’t tell us to stop clapping, we’d still be clapping.”